Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I’m so happy to know that you guys are enjoying this group watch, and that this has been a very positive introduction to Jang Hyuk’s magnificence for some of you! Coz I’m always happy about more Jang Hyuk love in the house, heh. 🤩
I hope you guys are ready to chat about Money Flower episodes 3 & 4! Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please! We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
This episode, it feels as if things are moving really fast, with the relationship development between Boo Cheon and Mo Hyun feeling especially accelerated. Yet, at the same time, everything mostly also feels like it’s being held within tight control. So while things might be moving along really quickly, it doesn’t feel at all helter-skelter; it’s all managed – largely, anyway, except for when Boo Cheon’s chafing to be at the reins – with a great deal of precision. That combination makes the watch quite absorbing, I find.
Certainly, as a number of you have pointed out, there is a definite amount of suspension of disbelief required around Pil Joo’s uncanny ability to predict how the various people in his plan will act or react, and why. I’m happy to suspend that disbelief, because in this heightened melodramatic, soap-operatic, darkly elegant drama world, Pil Joo is supposed to be that mysterious and extraordinary. That’s why he commands so much soft power, even though he is technically Cheong A Group’s “dog.”
It’s interesting to me, that in this episode’s opening scene, Pil Joo’s voiceover, asks Mal Ran not to give way to anything, “until he pokes his own eyes, cuts his own flesh, and throttles himself.” I hadn’t picked up on this before, but from this voiceover, we can infer that Pil Joo’s revenge plan target isn’t primarily Mal Ran, even though he’s certainly not exactly on her side either. Rather, it seems that he’s using her to get at his true target – who looks to be Grandpa Chairman.
The development of the “naturally fated” romance between Boo Cheon and Mo Hyun happens at a dizzying speed this episode, with Boo Cheon going from looking at Mo Hyun’s pictures with Pil Joo, to going on dates with her and kissing her and staying up all night talking with her and making plans to sleep with her, all in the space of what feels like a few days.
From Boo Cheon’s point of view, this is, of course, ideal, because he wants to marry Mo Hyun as quickly as possible, so that he can gain secondary power from his in-laws. The question is whether we can accept that this all feels natural and appealing, from Mo Hyun’s point of view.
And, because Show has done a good job emphasizing that Mo Hyun puts so much store in the idea of a fated love who is “the one,” that once we establish that Mo Hyun is increasingly convinced that she and Boo Cheon are fated to meet, and make a great match, it’s easy to believe that she would happily throw herself into the whirlwind romance that seems to accompany this fated meeting.
The sticky thing, of course, is the fact that she knows Boo Cheon as Pil Joo, and vice versa. That’s a tricky thing indeed. In fact, I wonder at the stories that Boo Cheon tells Mo Hyun while acting as Pil Joo; surely that whole story about tying himself down during the World Cup, was either fabricated, or borrowed from Pil Joo?
While Boo Cheon rambles uninhibitedly to Pil Joo about all his thoughts around dating, marrying, and sleeping with Mo Hyun, it’s clear that all of Boo Cheon’s thoughtless words have an effect on Pil Joo. Pil Joo is highly guarded almost all the time, and he consistently keeps his responses to Boo Cheon smooth and in line with their shared plan towards Boo Cheon marrying Mo Hyun, yes, but the camera lingers enough to show us the glimpses of discomfort that Pil Joo deals with, each time Boo Cheon says something about Mo Hyun.
Despite Pil Joo not having any qualms about casting Mo Hyun as a pawn on his chessboard, it’s becoming clear that he also cares about whether she’s treated honorably, and whether she is sincerely happy with the developments in her life. When Boo Cheon talks about not knowing whether he can like Mo Hyun until he’s slept with her, Pil Joo abruptly ends the slideshow of Mo Hyun’s pictures, takes Boo Cheon’s face in his hands, and reminds him that his dream is to have Cheong A, and that if he doesn’t sincerely impress Mo Hyun, then his hopes of the marriage, and of Cheong A, are over.
The way Pil Joo delivers that message, feels convincingly like he’s a concerned mentor, but at the same time, there’s a slight tightness to his voice, and a touch of disquiet in his gaze, that makes me feel like this effort to protect Mo Hyun is a lot more personal than he’d like to let on.
Plus, there’s that whole dynamic where the way Boo Cheon wins Mo Hyun’s heart, is essentially using Pil Joo’s words and Pil Joo’s lens. The way he talks about being happy to see the migratory birds, and the way he talks about being more drawn to her personality and her looks; these are the key things that bowl her over, and as viewer, I can’t help but connect that these are all things that Pil Joo has said. Which means that she’s actually falling for Pil Joo, without knowing it. It’s all quite twisted, but all the more absorbing, because of it.
We do get a sense that Boo Cheon is starting to chafe (well, more than before) at how Pil Joo is involved in every area of his life, and is the reason for his success. Now, he’s telling Pil Joo to stay out of his love life and marriage; that he’ll be able to get married successfully now, even without Pil Joo’s help.
This all sounds like ignorant folly on Boo Cheon’s part to my ears, because, as we’ve seen, the only reason Boo Cheon’s even been able to get this far in courting Mo Hyun, is all because of Pil Joo’s help. Boo Cheon now saying that he can take it from here, and that Pil Joo should basically butt out, feels like a child saying that he can now earn money to take care of the family, because he’s learned his ABCs. 😏
This does have an effect on Pil Joo, though. Where mostly we’ve only seen Pil Joo’s discomfort expressed in tiny micro-expressions, in the scene where Boo Cheon blithely informs Pil Joo that he plans to sleep with Mo Hyun that day, Pil Joo’s morphing expression in the car, literally looks like his blood is coming to a boil beneath the surface, and he’s forcibly tamping it down, by sheer force of the will. Really impressive delivery there by Jang Hyuk; this scene never fails to blow me away. 😱
On the strategic side of things, I have to admit that I just like watching Pil Joo wield all the power as the hidden puppet master, while looking studiously like an innocent bystander, while he moves his pawns as he pleases. This episode, we can see this best in the way he basically twists Yeo Cheon’s arm to give Daeil Distribution back to Boo Cheon, even though Grandpa Chairman wants Yeo Cheon to have it.
The way Pil Joo just nods and accepts Grandpa Chairman’s decision, when really, Pil Joo’s the one who’s making it all happen, is all quite fascinating and satisfying. I like this idea of how in control Pil Joo is, as a master strategist. I think I might have mentioned this in my Money Flower review, but this aspect of Pil Joo reminds me of Mei Changsu in my favorite C-drama Nirvana In Fire, and that is high praise indeed.
We end the episode with Pil Joo approaching a thoughtful looking Mo Hyun, and re-introducing himself as Boo Cheon, only to have her look him right in the eye, and address him as Pil Joo instead. 😱
Ooh. The plot thickens (although, as some of you have pointed out, it’s already very thick, heh). Exactly how much does Mo Hyun know, what has she deduced, and how did we get here?
This face. This plaintive, wistful face, so full of aching and yearning, which Pil Joo lets slip more than once this episode, is where we spend the bulk of this hour.
As it turns out, Pil Joo is the one who (anonymously) alerts Mo Hyun to Boo Cheon’s and his true identities, thus derailing her whirlwind romance with Boo Cheon, at least momentarily. To me, the most interesting question has to be, why Pil Joo would go out of his way to do something that essentially goes against the very plan that he himself has so painstakingly put in place.
At about this episode’s halfway mark, we hear Pil Joo say in voiceover to Mo Hyun, “You should stop this. I’m so broken and ruined… that I can’t stop myself… from pushing you towards the agony called Cheong A.”
I feel like this is the most raw glimpse that we get into Pil Joo’s heart of hearts, which is usually so well concealed and modulated by the strategist in him. All this time, Pil Joo has managed to continue with his chosen plan, even when Boo Cheon says thoughtless, disrespectful things about Mo Hyun. Perhaps this sense of unease in Pil Joo has been building up with each conversation with Boo Cheon, culminating in Boo Cheon’s declaration of his intention of sleeping with Mo Hyun? Which then is the thing that galvanizes Pil Joo into a last-ditch effort to give Mo Hyun the chance to save herself?
It hadn’t occurred to me to ask this during my first watch, but now, I wonder if this is equally an expression of his conscience, as much as it is an expression of his heart for her? I can see that Pil Joo has no qualms about hatching a revenge plan against the entire Cheong A family, but Mo Hyun is basically an innocent bystander who happens to qualify as a useful pawn. I’d like to think that Pil Joo does have to wrestle with his conscience, for dragging Mo Hyun into this.
At the same time, it’s increasingly clear this episode, that Pil Joo is very much affected by Mo Hyun. Pil Joo is usually so unruffled and calculated, regardless of what is happening around him. The fact that he would go to the scuba diving school and allow himself to be seen by Mo Hyun, out of concern for whether she’s alright, says a great deal. She can unsettle him, and clearly, this is something that he has to grapple with.
By the time we reach the end of our episode, Pil Joo’s gotten his emotions under control, and is back to being impassive and in control, even coaching Boo Cheon on how to salvage his relationship with Mo Hyun, by turning Pil Joo’s piggyback moment with Mo Hyun, into his own.
It’s very clever and effective, and it isn’t long at all, before Mo Hyun’s visiting Grandpa Chairman and Mal Ran, to talk about marriage plans – and yet, at the same time, this solution strikes me as something that’s even more cold and calculated, and that digs even deeper into Pil Joo’s heartache, than all the other plans that had gone before. This was his special, personal, private moment with Mo Hyun (even though she didn’t know it), and now, he’s forcibly tearing it away from himself, and giving it to Boo Cheon to claim as his own. Oof. That’s got to hurt. 💔
I can already see that Mo Hyun and Mooshimwon are not going to be a good fit. Mo Hyun’s all heart, and Mooshimwon (the hanja of which is “無心園,” which you can see hanging over the main entrance) literally means “heartless garden.” And, as we see from the way Grandpa Chairman and everyone else conduct affairs, this place – this family – really is all business, with “business” being a rather generous way of describing the things that they do.
To be fair, there are times when Grandpa Chairman actually seems to make good business sense to me, like when he tells Mal Ran that he can’t promise Boo Cheon a senior position just because of his parentage. At the same time, when Grandpa Chairman shows his heartless side, it is startlingly cold.
Like when Mal Ran reminds him that he’d been the one to request for Boo Cheon’s father Soo Man (and thus also Pil Joo’s father) to be taken off life support, when there had still been a chance (albeit a small one) that he might have woken up, given time. Woah. 🤯 That’s cold. How does a father do that, when it concerns his own son?? And how awful, that Grandpa Chairman turns around and blames everything on Mal Ran, because she’d stressed out her husband by being too strong-headed. 😱 UGH. That’s awful and insane – and yes, heartless. Grandpa Chairman named Mooshimwon well. (Or did he live up to that name, if he wasn’t the one who christened it?)
At this point, I just wanted to take a moment to talk some more, about the way Mal Ran relates to Pil Joo. This episode, we get more instances of their body language hinting, subtly but definitely, at a relationship that feels more like that between lovers, than that between a master and subordinate.
What jumps out at me, is how, during the flashback to when Pil Joo was an adolescent, the way Mal Ran approaches him and touches him, like in the screenshot above, with her hand to his shoulder, leans lover-esque as well. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Mal Ran had seduced Pil Joo at some point, whether when he’d been a teen, or after he’d become an adult, in order to gain an emotional hold over him. Or, y’know, perhaps because she had been attracted to him too, which I wouldn’t be surprised by. She strikes me as a woman who likes to feel powerful.
Also, this episode, there’s the scene where Mal Ran basically loses her cool and throws a bit of a fit, accusing Pil Joo of being Mo Hyun’s spokesperson. Given Mal Ran’s general cool demeanor, this struck me as rather unusual, and I can’t help wondering if this was a jealous fit by a lover, rather than an angry outburst by an unhappy master.
As some of you predicted, Seo Won is back, and it appears that she’s pregnant. Ooh. 👀 Things are definitely getting even more complicated now, for Boo Cheon. He’s finally got Mo Hyun back, and their wedding is officially in the works, but Seo Won doesn’t look like she’s ready to sit back and play second fiddle, judging from that look on her face. Gah. Doesn’t this look like a trainwreck waiting to happen?
..I can’t look away, though. Can you? 😉